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Published May 18, 1984 | public
Journal Article

A Candidate Magnetic Sense Organ in the Yellowfin Tuna, Thunnus albacares


Single-domain magnetite crystals have been isolated and characterized from tissue located in a sinus within the dermethmoid bone of the skull of the yellowfin tuna, Thunnus albacares. Their chemical composition, narrow size distribution, and distinctive crystal morphology indicate that these crystals are biochemical precipitates. Experiments on the interaction between particles reveal the organization of the particles in situ and suggest a possible form for candidate magnetoreceptor organelles. The consistent localization of such particles with similar arrangement within the dermethmoids of this and other pelagic fishes suggests that the ethmoid region is a possible location for a vertebrate magnetic sense organ.

Additional Information

© 1984 American Association for the Advancement of Science. 8 August 1983; accepted 26 January 1984. We thank H. A. Lowenstam, K. A. Peterson (Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena 91125), and A. Perry for helpful discussions, critical reviews, and assistance with experiments. C. E. Helsley, B. H. Keating, L. C. Ming, and M. 0. Garcia (Hawaii Institute of Geophysics, University of Hawaii, Honolulu 96822) provided use of paleomagnetic laboratory facilities and assistance with x-ray diffraction and electron microprobe analyses. J. P. Revel (California Institute of Technology) made facilities available for electron microscopy. This research was supported in part by a graduate study award from the East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii 96848 (M.M.W.), NSF grants PCM82-03627 and BNS83-00301 (J.L.K.), and NOAA funding. Contribution 4003 from the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. 91125.

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